Recently, The Age republished its first edition. This was part of its 150 years celebration. To join in, I spent a considerable amount of time sifting through the events of Tuesday, 17thOctober, 1854.
The first thing you are struck with is what constituted the news. On page 1, it was packed solid with shipping announcements, a prospectus for a land speculation venture, rewards to counter a large burglary and various advertisements for transportation (back to England now and you\u2019ll have to pay), hotels, summer clothing, watches, oil and lots of land and liquor. There were vacancies in The Age staff and an introduction to the new Journal. Basically, lots of what we would ads today and very little newsworthy content.
What caught my eye, as someone trying to come up with weekly column ideas, was a lone tender announcement. The only tender called for in that entire edition (and I looked through that entire small 3 point font) was an announcement from the Sewerage and Water Commission. This was then part of Town Hall. John Lanktrek, the Secretary, was looking for \u2018contractors\u2019 (some names don\u2019t change) and invited \u2018tenders\u2019 (again, the same) for \u201cmaking and fencing in a new water course from the river Plenty to Yan Yean reservoir.\u201d The specs were available from the Engineer\u2019s office but suffice it to say the \u201ccontract will comprise about 45,000 cubic yards of exoavatione [your guess is as good as mine], and about 1500 rods of fencing.\u201d You would have about two and a half weeks to get this tender in by the 2ndNovemb er.
To find some candidates for this prospective job, one only had to look further down page 1 to find R. and A. Porter who had about 6,000 feet of fencing at their disposal and over to page 7 to find a business directory including some builders, two surveyors, and a plumber. If you needed 6,000 pounds of capital, a solicitor, P.A.C. O\u2019Farrell happened to have that kind of money to burn.
Other than that, this all appeared to be a buyer\u2019s market. Apart from land transactions, there was a clear business in speculating on importing merchandise and seeing if you could unload it all when the ship came in. By the way, if you were wondering when that would occur, The Age\u2019s Commercial Department clearly saw an opportunity in \u2018shipping intelligence.\u2019
But on the other side of the tender market, Laurie Layton and Co., who were Gas Engineers put in a medium size ad on the very last page telling all who might read that far that they had completed the lighting for the Melbourne Exhibition (the event had just run) and the Union Hotel and now they were ready to serve. Any gas infrastructure needs could be satisfied across all of Victoria. And why not \u201cfor economy, both of material and labor, for brilliancy and purity of light, this gas is unequalled as an artificial light for churches, also theatres, hotels and other places of public resort.\u201d I guess this explains why the new Astley\u2019s Amphitheatre on Spring Street prohibited smoking in all parts of the theatre; although it doesn\u2019t explain the strict exclusion of \u201cpersons of improper character.\u201d
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?